The ancient Babylonians made resolutions by making promises to their gods to return borrowed items and pay outstanding debts at the beginning of their calendar year, coinciding with the planting season to ensure a successful crop and an abundant harvest later. The Romans made promises to their gods, specifically Janus, the two-faced god from which the first month of our calendar system derives its name.
Following the conversion of Roman Emperor Constantine by Pope Sylvester (who also healed the emperor of leprosy), pagan gods were no longer worshiped. To drive away the darkness of the past Romans wandered through dark streets shouting and making noise – you know, acting foolish much like many do today. A mask or costume ensured the ancient gods could not punish the revelers as they made merriment.
In medieval times knights gathered for one last feast during Christmas week, vowing to remain chivalrous by placing their hands on a peacock (“peacock vow”). Fast forward to the eighteenth century when the Wesley brothers instituted watch night services on New Year’s Eve as a means to close out the old and welcome the new year by soul searching, praying and resolving to be better Christians. In a way it was akin to both the Babylonian custom and the Jewish Rosh Hashanah (New Year) which culminates with Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).
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